The Ukrainian city of Izyum was occupied by Russian forces for 162 days. In that time, many residents, especially ones whose occupations, skills, or assets made them useful to the Russians, faced one difficult choice after another as they struggled to survive. When the Ukrainian military retook Izyum, the city was confronted with a new dilemma: determining who had “collaborated” with the Russians and should be punished accordingly:

In Kharkiv, the capital of the region, I met with Andriy Kravchenko, a prosecutor who works with Ukraine’s security service, the S.B.U., in identifying and charging suspected collaborators in newly liberated territories. He walked me through the Ukrainian criminal code for Article 111(1), the law governing collaboration, which Zelensky enacted in mid-March. “In general, collaboration is defined as any purposeful act that harms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our state,” Kravchenko said.

In practice, that can mean many things. The most obvious cases are those in which a person took up arms against Ukrainian forces or was involved in spying or sabotage to aid the Russian war effort. But assessing culpability can get murky at the level of local governance. “We’re looking for people who worked for the benefit of the Russian occupation,” Kravchenko told me. “But does that apply to a welder or carpenter who maintained buildings or equipment for the occupiers? Or people responsible for critical infrastructure?” There wasn’t an easy answer or policy, he said.

A further complication embedded in Ukraine’s law on collaboration is the question of motive. “Was a person moved to act out of personal belief or under the barrel of a gun?” Kravchenko said. “The first would be a crime, the second not.” In Izyum, government workers stopped receiving their Ukrainian salaries in March. Those who agreed to work for the Russian-backed administration often point to the unforgiving financial reality of occupation. “We have so many of these borderline situations, where it is hard for an investigator to prove not merely collaboration but criminal collaboration,” Kravchenko said. “It requires painstaking work.” He told me that it will likely take years for all the trials stemming from months of occupation to make their way through the courts. “But, believe me,” he added, “every case will be looked into. No one should sleep too comfortably.”